“Quite as much of THAT going on in the country as in town”

April 2, 2022 at 3:10 pm (books, entertainment, history) (, , , )


Ah, dear Mrs. Bennet!
(Pride and Prejudice)

Long ago I purchased two novels by Anne Thackeray Ritchie: The Story of Elizabeth and Old Kensington – reprinted as part of the “Her Write His Name” series by THEOMMES. The life and work of ANY female writer, never mind one relating to Victorian England and carrying the well-known THACKERAY name, was/is of interest.

Anne Thackeray Ritchie comes up every once in a blue moon, even in connection with the Austen Leighs of this blog, Two Teens in the Time of Austen. As she did TODAY, when I was double-checking access to the Eton College (Manuscripts) Archives. Soon-to-close is a special exhibition at Eton, in the Tower Gallery: “A Victorian Legacy: Anne Thackeray Ritchie’s life and writings.”

Running from 14 October 2021 until 14 April 2022, (by appointment), “This exhibition, based on an extensive archive of over 1000 letters, family albums and other personal papers in Eton College Library is the first dedicated to her in her own right.”

Eton, it turns out, has Anne Thackeray Ritchie’s copy of JANE AUSTEN: HER LIFE AND LETTERS, A FAMILY RECORD (1913), by William Austen Leigh and his nephew Richard Arthur Austen Leigh. Dating to a few years later (1919) is a letter from RAAL to the Hester Ritchie, said to be “Regarding Anne Thackeray Ritchie and an article about her work.” But what REALLY caught my eye was notice of a publication by Anne Thackeray Ritchie, of A Book of Sibyls: Mrs Barbauld, Miss Edgeworth, Mrs Opie, Miss Austen.

Of course I scrambled to find an online copy:

A Book of Sibyls: Mrs Barbauld, Miss Edgeworth, Mrs Opie, Miss Austen

The chapter on Jane Austen begins on page 197, and opens with a page-length quote of dialogue from Pride and Prejudice, which includes Mrs. Bennet’s “complete victory” over the dreaded Mr. Darcy with the observation that “titles” this post.

The book itself opens with this delightful mise-en-scene:

Not long ago, a party of friends were sitting at luncheon in a suburb of London, when one of them happened to make some reference to Maple Grove and Selina, and to ask in what county of England Maple Grove was situated. Everybody immediately had a theory. Only one of the company (a French gentleman, not well acquainted with English) did not recognise the allusion. A lady sitting by the master of the house (she will, I hope, forgive me for quoting her words, for no one else has a better right to speak them) said, ‘What a curious sign it is of Jane Austen’s increasing popularity! Here are five out of six people sitting round a table, nearly a hundred years after her death, who all recognise at once a chance allusion to an obscure character in one of her books.‘”

Alas what county each opined for Maple Grove is not mentioned.

It is easy to speculate if the “Lady” seated beside the “master of the house” wasn’t an Austen Leigh by marriage….

I leave it to you to discover this publication for yourself, and veer off to books on the Thackeray family:

Anne Thackeray Ritchie’s Wikipedia entry mentions the 2-volume set of “biography” by John Aplin; and also his five-volume edition of their “Correspondence and Journals” The latter is tremendously pricey; I may look into the former, especially as, being two volumes, one can buy one and then the other. There are also the biographies focused on the daughter by Winifred Gérin (1981), which one critic thanks for making “rediscovery” of the writer possible. And Anny: The Life of Anny Thackerary Ritchie, by Henrietta Garnett (2004; 2006). For a review of this last, by biographer Hermoine Lee (Virginia Woolf), read The Guardian. I especially appreciate Lee’s closing thoughts on “how obscure, unrecorded lives can speak to us.”

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: